[FACT comments: Some might blame this senseless act, from which the entire planet has no hope of recovery, on ya ba or the carelessness of youth or just another American with no sense of history. Whatever, it’s an excellent argument for euthanasia. A life sentence just would not be enough. 1.73956 times older than JC, in fact.]

Florida woman admits she burned down a tree ‘older than Jesus’

Andrew Jones

Raw Story: February 29, 2012


A 26-year-old Floridian woman admitted to burning down one of the oldest trees in the world Tuesday afternoon.

According to WFTV, Sara Barnes was arrested after admitting she set The Senator, a 3,500 year old bald cypress tree, on fire on a mid-January night in Longwood, Florida.

Barnes, a regular drug user who was smoking meth with a friend at the time, lit the tree on fire so that she could see in the dark but could not stop it from spreading.

“I can’t believe I burned down a tree older then Jesus,” Barnes told authorities before taken into custody by police.

The Senator, which became a landmark in Longwood, was the fifth oldest tree in the world.

WATCH: Video from WFTV, which was broadcast on February 28, 2012.

[CJ Hinke of FACT comments: Censorship is not just about a blocked Internet. Free citizens need examine every aspect of how their lives are censored. In Thailand, not least is censorship expressed as banned books. Brewster Kahle’s Archive.org sponsors FACT’s Banned Books Project.]

In a Flood Tide of Digital Data, an Ark Full of Books

The Physical Archive of the Internet Archive hopes to eventually collect 10 million items, and it has started taking in films as well.

David Streitfield

The New York Times: March 3, 2012


[Lianne Milton for The New York Times]

In a wooden warehouse in this industrial suburb, the 20th century is being stored in case of digital disaster.

Brewster Kahle, the founder of the Internet Archive. [Lianne Milton]

Every week, 20,000 new volumes arrive at the repository. [Lianne Milton]

Forty-foot shipping containers stacked two by two are stuffed with the most enduring, as well as some of the most forgettable, books of the era. Every week, 20,000 new volumes arrive, many of them donations from libraries and universities thrilled to unload material that has no place in the Internet Age.

Destined for immortality one day last week were “American Indian Policy in the 20th Century,” “All New Crafts for Halloween,” “The Portable Faulkner,” “What to Do When Your Son or Daughter Divorces” and “Temptation’s Kiss,” a romance.

“We want to collect one copy of every book,” said Brewster Kahle, who has spent $3 million to buy and operate this repository situated just north of San Francisco. “You can never tell what is going to paint the portrait of a culture.”

As society embraces all forms of digital entertainment, this latter-day Noah is looking the other way. A Silicon Valley entrepreneur who made his fortune selling a data-mining company to Amazon.com in 1999, Mr. Kahle founded and runs the Internet Archive, a nonprofit organization devoted to preserving Web pages — 150 billion so far — and making texts more widely available.

But even though he started his archiving in the digital realm, he now wants to save physical texts, too.

“We must keep the past even as we’re inventing a new future,” he said. “If the Library of Alexandria had made a copy of every book and sent it to India or China, we’d have the other works of Aristotle, the other plays of Euripides. One copy in one institution is not good enough.”

Mr. Kahle had the idea for the physical archive while working on the Internet Archive, which has digitized two million books. With a deep dedication to traditional printing — one of his sons is named Caslon, after the 18th-century type designer — he abhorred the notion of throwing out a book once it had been scanned. The volume that yielded the digital copy was special.

And perhaps essential. What if, for example, digitization improves and we need to copy the books again?

“Microfilm and microfiche were once a utopian vision of access to all information,” Mr. Kahle noted, “but it turned out we were very glad we kept the books.”

An obvious model for the repository is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which is buried in the Norwegian permafrost and holds 740,000 seed samples as a safety net for biodiversity. But the repository is also an outgrowth of notions that Mr. Kahle, 51, has had his entire career.

“There used to be all these different models of what the Internet was going to be, and one of them was the great library that would offer universal access to all knowledge,” he said. “I’m still working on it.”

Mr. Kahle’s partners and suppliers in the effort, the Physical Archive of the Internet Archive, are very glad someone is saving the books — as long as it is not them.

The public library in Burlingame, 35 miles to the south, had a room full of bound periodicals stretching back decades. “Only two people a month used it,” said Patricia Harding, the city librarian. “We needed to repurpose the space.”

Three hundred linear feet of Scientific American, Time, Vogue and other periodicals went off to the repository. The room became a computer lab.

“A lot of libraries are doing pretty drastic weeding,” said Judith Russell, the University of Florida’s dean of libraries who is sending the archive duplicate scholarly volumes. “It’s very much more palatable to us and our faculty that books are being sent out to a useful purpose rather than just recycled.”

As the repository expands — from about 500,000 volumes today toward its goal of 10 million — so does its range. It has just started taking in films.

“Most films are as ephemeral as popcorn,” said Rick Prelinger, the Internet Archive’s movie expert. “But as time passes, the works we tried to junk often prove more interesting than the ones we chose to save.”

At Pennsylvania State University, librarians realized that most of their 16-millimeter films were never being checked out and that there was nowhere to store them properly. So the university sent 5,411 films here, including “Introducing the Mentally Retarded” (1964), “We Have an Addict in the House” (1973) and “Ovulation and Egg Transport in the Rat” (1951).

“Otherwise they probably would have ended up in a landfill,” said William Bishop, Penn State’s director of media and technology support services.

Not everyone appreciates Mr. Kahle’s vision. One of the first comments on the Internet Archive’s site after the project was announced in June came from a writer who said he did not want the archive to retain “any of my work in any form whatsoever.”

Even some librarians are unsure of the need for a repository beyond the Library of Congress.

“I think the probability of a massive loss of digital information, and thus the potential need to redigitize things, is lower than Brewster thinks,” said Michael Lesk, former chairman of the department of library and information science at Rutgers. But he conceded that “it’s not zero.”

If serious “1984”-style trouble does arrive, Mr. Lesk said, it might come as “all Internet information falls under the control of either governments or copyright owners.” But he made clear he thought that was unlikely.

Under a heated tent in the warehouse’s western corner the other day, Tracey Gutierres, a digital records specialist, worked on a new batch. If a volume has a bar code, she scans it to see if the title is already in the repository. If there is no bar code, she checks the International Standard Book Number on the copyright page. If the book is really old, she puts it aside for manual processing.

Before the books make it the 150 feet to the shipping containers for storage, some will have to travel 12,000 miles to China. The Chinese, who are keen to build a digital library, will scan the books for themselves and the archive and then send them back. The digital texts will be available for the visually impaired and other legal purposes.

As word about the repository has spread, families are making their own donations.

Carmelle Anaya had no idea what to do with the 1,200 books her father, Eric Larson, left when he died. Then she heard about the project. “He’d be thrilled to think they would be archived so maybe someone could check them out a hundred years from now,” said Ms. Anaya, who lives in California’s Central Valley.

Her daughter Ashley designed a special bookplate. Any readers across the centuries will know where the copies came from. “The books will live on,” Ms. Anaya said, “even if the people can’t.”

[CJ Hinke of FACT comments: I doubt many FACT readers were born when Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) evolved as a nonviolent movement for peace and justice on American academic campuses. It was a primary force against the US war on Vietnam before it schismed into its most memorable component, the Weatherman. Weatherman adherents believed that only violence could accomplish the revolution necessary in imperialist America. Their bombings killed whatever was left of the peace movement. Nonetheless, SDS’ Port Huron Statement is one of the greatest revolutionary tracts ever written and deserves careful consideration even today, perhaps especially today. Read it for yourself.]

The Port Huron Statement at 50

Sam Roberts

The New York Times: March 3, 2012


THEY are mostly in their 70s now, those quixotic college students who drafted the Port Huron Statement at a ramshackle A.F.L.-C.I.O. education retreat northeast of Detroit in 1962. Today, their “agenda for a generation” survives most famously as a punch line from the 1998 film “The Big Lebowski” in which the stoner protagonist proclaims himself an author of “the original Port Huron Statement, not the compromised second draft.” Purists like Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski might dissent, but last month the historian Michael Kazin pronounced the final draft “the most ambitious, the most specific and the most eloquent manifesto in the history of the American left.”

A Students for a Democratic Society national council meeting in Bloomington, Ind., in 1963. Tom Hayden is at far left. [George Abbot White]

The statement that eventually emerged from a five-day national convention of the Students for a Democratic Society held June 11 to 15, 1962, contained 25,000 words. That was 7,000 more than the Communist Manifesto, which started a global revolution, and 24,300 more words than the Declaration of the Occupancy of New York City passed last September by a general assembly of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which in three weeks produced the magnitude of protests that would take S.D.S. several years to galvanize.

But by invoking the spirit of John Dewey, Albert Camus, C. Wright Mills, Michael Harrington and Pope John XXIII, by at once championing and chiding organized labor as a victim of its own success (the S.D.S. began as the student arm of the League for Industrial Democracy), by elevating the university to the apex of activism and by validating liberalism and the two-party system, Tom Hayden and his colleagues forged a manifesto that still reverberates.

“While most people haven’t read it, it’s still extremely relevant” for its guiding principles, said David Graeber, an anthropologist and anarchist who has been active in the Occupy movement.

“For a long while I thought the Port Huron Statement was a relic of a hopeful past,” Mr. Hayden recalled last week. “But frequently students would read it and say how surprised they were at its sounding like the present.”

Mr. Hayden, who was steeled by a Catholic social conscience, was 22 when he began drafting the manifesto in March 1962 in his Manhattan apartment. He was a budding journalist from the University of Michigan whose job as the principal author of the collaborative manifesto was to synthesize an inchoate angst that had been germinating in several nascent, and largely unpopular, political movements.

Its guiding vision was codified by Arnold Kaufman, a philosophy professor at Michigan. He called it “participatory democracy” and, while S.D.S. would fracture, his concept would in ensuing decades be codified in school decentralization, community planning boards and freedom of information acts. At academic conferences during this anniversary year, including one recently at the University of California, Santa Barbara, scholars and grizzled activists are revisiting the document. Its last sentence was an apocalyptic downer: “If we appear to seek the unattainable, as it has been said, then let it be known that we do so to avoid the unimaginable.”

Yet while American campuses were awakening from apathy, they were still several years away from radicalization. The mind-set of the Port Huron drafters — in contrast to the members of the Occupy movement — was that the fundamental values espoused by their liberal elders remained valid and that money had not yet corrupted the political system so completely that it was incapable of being reformed. That is why Mr. Hayden addressed the manifesto to the Young Left as much as to a New Left.

“We would replace power rooted in possession, privilege or circumstance by power and uniqueness rooted in love, reflectiveness, reason and creativity,” the statement said. Those sentiments were echoed in Occupy’s founding principles — “constituting ourselves as autonomous political beings engaged in non-violent civil disobedience and building solidarity based on mutual respect, acceptance, and love.”

“Sure, there were important things we missed,” Mr. Hayden recalled. “The environmental crisis, but Rachel Carson’s book hadn’t come out. Feminism, but Betty Friedan’s book wasn’t out. The escalation of Vietnam, which none of us expected, though we opposed. The assassination of J.F.K. and other killings to follow. The subsequent radicalization and polarization that characterized the late ’60s through Watergate.”

But, he continued, “the core of the Port Huron Statement rings true, and the theme of participatory democracy is relevant today from Cairo to Occupy Wall Street to Wisconsin to student-led democracy movements.”

James Miller, a professor of politics at the New School for Social Research and author of “Democracy Is in the Streets: From Port Huron to the Siege of Chicago,” suggests that the very concept of consensus at all costs meant that moderates compromised and militants eventually predominated.

Professor Kazin, who teaches history at Georgetown and co-edits Dissent, recalled, too, that “for the anti-war militants who flooded into S.D.S. after 1965, participatory democracy seemed too hazy and abstract both in meaning and application to guide a revolution.”

In 1969, the Port Huron Statement was absent from an anthology, “The New Left Reader.” But a decade later, it was excerpted in Diane Ravitch’s “American Reader: Words That Moved a Nation.”

“Sadly,” she said recently, “I find what is most dated is a sort of naïve belief that human nature itself might be transformed through appeal to idealism, and that somehow our institutions will be malleable in the face of idealism mobilized.”

Paul Berman, who teaches journalism at New York University, said that the statement’s appeal to young people was natural and that neither its tone nor its prescriptions could be blamed for the later atomization of S.D.S.

Could Port Huron double as a manifesto for Occupy?

“This new generation, whether anarchist or simply disillusioned by stolen elections, is far more cynical about politicians and elections,” Mr. Hayden said.

But Occupy has learned the lessons of S.D.S., says Todd Gitlin, a Columbia University professor and author of the forthcoming “Occupy Nation.” “The primacy of nonviolence is a reaction to the ’60s, as is don’t have hierarchal organizations and don’t have visible leaders,” said Professor Gitlin, who was president of S.D.S. from 1963-64. “For the S.D.S, the prime enemy was apathy. This movement recognizes you don’t have to preach to people that they’re alienated.”

In 1962, though, fewer people were. They were still groggy from the conformist Eisenhower decade and dazzled by the Kennedy mystique, which may be why the Port Huron Statement began circumspectly: “We are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit.”

Kalle Lasn was 20 in 1962. Today, he is the editor of Adbusters, whose Twitter tag #OccupyWallStreet branded the movement last summer. He does not feel the Occupy movement needs to look to the Port Huron statement for guidance. “If you ask me what is the most powerful, personal and collective feeling of people in the Occupy movement, it is a feeling of gloom and doom, that they’re looking toward a black hole future,” Mr. Lasn said. “I’m not quite sure we need a manifesto to say that.”

Sam Roberts is the urban affairs correspondent for The New York Times.

[CJ Hinke of FACT comments: Amnesty Int’l and Human Rights Watch first came to our attention because they were so pitifully slow in defending political prisoners in Thailand. They both have a good record for supporting human rights. Unfortunately, that great record is in the past—you’re only as good as you are today. Neither organisation is accessible to human rights defenders or the public. I found this out the hard way when I tried to convey my horror for their support of the NATO bombing of Libya. And now we see HRW is supporting similar human rights crimes in Syria. There are a few possibilities here. It would not be inconceivable that AI and HRW have been infiltrated by govt stooges who press a govt agenda and military solutions. Or maybe the head isn’t listening to the tail. Or perhaps they’ve grown so big and everyone has to get salaries so they try to please everyone, including the warmongers. Whatever, they are both straying down the wrong path and defending human rights abuses. Frankly, we think it reprehensible that such supposed do-gooder organisations are so eager to give their dirty PR to govts. If you have money to give to defend human rights, give to a group that’s really making a difference, not just same-old, same-old.]

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have chosen the side of Empire in the Washington-backed belligerency

Glen Ford

Black Agenda Report: February 15, 2012



“Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have chosen sides in the Washington-backed belligerency – the side of Empire.” Syria has no choice but to secure every square foot of its territory. “Faced with the certainty of superpower-backed attack under the guise of ‘protecting’ civilians in “liberated” territory, Syria cannot afford to cede even one neighborhood of a single city – not one block! – or of any rural or border enclave, to armed rebels and foreign jihadis.”

The largest imperial offensive since the Iraq invasion of March, 2003, is in full swing, under the banner of “humanitarian” intervention – Barack Obama’s fiendishly clever upgrade of George Bush’s “dumb” wars. Having failed to obtain a Libyan-style United Nations Security Council fig leaf for a “humanitarian” military strike against Syria, the United States shifts effortlessly to a global campaign “outside the U.N. system” to expand its NATO/Persian Gulf royalty/Jihadi coalition. Next stop: Tunisia, where Washington’s allies will assemble on February 24 to sharpen their knives as “Friends of Syria.” The U.S. State Department has mobilized to shape the “Friends” membership and their “mandate” – which is warlord-speak for refining an ad hoc alliance for the piratical assault on Syria’s sovereignty.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are swigging the ale with their fellow buccaneers. These “human rights” warriors, headquartered in the bellies of empires past and present, their chests shiny with medals of propagandistic service to superpower aggression in Libya, contribute “left” legitimacy to the imperial project. London-based Amnesty International held a global “day of action” to rail against Syria for “crimes against humanity” and to accuse Russia and China of using their Security Council vetoes to “betray” the Syrian people – echoing the war hysteria out of Washington, Paris, London and the royal pigsties of Riyadh and Doha. New York-based Human Rights Watch denounced Moscow and Beijing’s actions as “incendiary” – as if it were not the empire and its allies who were setting the Middle East and Africa on fire, arming and financing jihadis – including hundreds of veteran Libyan Salafists now operating in Syria.

Under Obama’s “intelligent” (as opposed to “dumb”) imperial tutelage, colonial genocidaires like France now propose creation of “humanitarian corridors” inside Syria “to allow NGOs to reach the zones where there are scandalous massacres.” NATO flatly rejected such a corridor in Libya when sub-Saharan Africans and black Libyans were being massacred by militias armed and financed by the same “Friends” that now besiege Syria.

Turkey claims it has rejected, for now, the idea of setting up humanitarian “buffer zones” along its border with Syria – inside Syrian territory – while giving arms, training and sanctuary to Syrian military deserters. In reality, it is Syrian Army troop and armor concentrations on the border that have thwarted the establishment of such a “buffer” – a bald euphemism for creating a “liberated zone” that must be “protected” by NATO or some agglomeration of U.S.-backed forces.

NATO, which bombed Libya non-stop for six months, inflicting tens of thousands of casualties while refusing to count a single body, wants desperately to identify some sliver of Syrian soil on which to plant the “humanitarian” flag of intervention. They are transparently searching for a Benghazi, to justify a replay of the Libyan operation – the transparent fact that prompted the Russian and Chinese vetoes.

Faced with the certainty of superpower-backed attack under the guise of “protecting” civilians in “liberated” territory, Syria cannot afford to cede even one neighborhood of a single city – not one block! – or of any rural or border enclave, to armed rebels and foreign jihadis. That road leads directly to loss of sovereignty and possible dissection of Syria – which western pundits are already calling a “hodge-podge” nation that could be a “failed state.” Certainly, the French and British are experts at carving up other people’s territories, having drawn the national boundaries of the region after World War One. It is an understatement to say that Israel would be pleased.

With the Syrian military’s apparent successes in securing most of Homs and other centers of rebellion, the armed opposition has stepped up its terror tactics – a campaign noted with great alarm by the Arab League’s own Observer Mission to Syria, leading Saudi Arabia and Qatar to suppress the Mission’s report. Instead, the Gulf States are pressing the Arab League to openly “provide all kinds of political and material support” to the opposition, meaning arms and, undoubtedly, more Salafist fighters. Aleppo, Syria’s main commercial and industrial city, which had seen virtually no unrest, was struck by two deadly car bombs last week – signature work of the al-Qaida affiliate in neighboring Iraq.

The various “Friends of Syria,” all nestled in the U.S./NATO/Saudi/Qatar cocoon, now openly speak of all-out civil war in Syria – by which they mean stepped up armed conflict financed and directed by themselves – as the preferred alternative to the protracted struggle that the regime appears to be winning. There is one caveat: no “Western boots on the ground in any form,” as phrased by British Foreign Secretary William Hague. It is the Libya formula, and might as well have come straight from Barack Obama’s mouth.

Syria is fighting for its national existence against an umbrella of forces mobilized by the United States and NATO. Of the 6,000 or so people that have died in the past 11 months, about a third have been Syrian soldiers and police – statistical proof positive that this is an armed assault on the state. There is no question of massive foreign involvement, or that the aim of U.S. policy is regime change, as stated repeatedly by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (“Assad must go,” she told reporters in Bulgaria).

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have chosen sides in the Washington-backed belligerency – the side of Empire. As groups most often associated with (what passes for) the Left in their headquarters countries, they are invaluable allies of the current imperial offensive. They have many fellow travelers in (again, what passes for) anti-war circles in the colonizing and neo-colonizing nations. The French “Left” lifted hardly a finger while a million Algerians died in the struggle for independence, and have not proved effective allies of formerly colonized people in the 50 years, since. Among the European imperial powers, only Portugal’s so-called Carnation Revolution of 1974, a coup by young officers, resulted in substantial relief for the subjects of empire: the withdrawal of troops from Portugal’s African colonies.

The U.S. anti-war movement lost its mass character as soon as the threat of a draft was removed, in the early Seventies, while the United States continued to bomb Vietnam (and test new and exotic weapons on its people) until the fall of Saigon, in 1975. All that many U.S. lefties seemed to want was to get the Republicans off their backs, in 2008, and to Hell with the rest of the world. Democrat Barack Obama has cranked the imperial war machine back into high gear, with scarcely a peep from the “Left.”

There was great ambivalence – the most polite word I can muster – among purported leftists in the United States and Europe to NATO’s bombardment and subjugation of Libya. Here we are again, in the face of existential imperial threats to Syria and Iran, as leftists temporize about human rights while the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” blazes new warpaths.

There is no such thing as an anti-war activist who is not an anti-imperialist. And the only job of an anti-imperialist in the belly of the beast is to disarm the beast. Absent that, s/he is useless to humanity.

As we used to say: You are part of the solution – or you are part of the problem. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are part of the problem.
Glen Ford, BAR executive editor, can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com 

Glen Ford is a frequent contributor to Global Research.  Global Research Articles by Glen Ford


‘Consensual’ Rape

A 16-year-old girl was used as a sex object and filmed. The question of whether she gave her consent to a soldier with a uniform and a gun in a war zone is absurd.

Voranai Vanijaka

Bangkok Post: March 4, 2012



Residents of Yarang district, Pattani are calling it ”rape”. Fourth Army chief Lt Gen Udomchai Thammasarorat is calling it a ”romantic liaison.” Some Thai-language dailies are calling it ”rape”. Other newspapers are calling it a sexual ”tryst”, as it was labelled in a Bangkok Post headline on Friday.

Comments from those who have watched the clip include:

”That’s not rape.”

”It’s consensual.”

”She wasn’t fighting. It’s not rape.”

”She only struggled to hide her face from the camera.”

”It looks like they are just cuddling.”

So was it rape or was it consensual?

There’s a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so that they can’t get away.

The victim is 16 years old. The army private was a draftee, which means he is at least 21 years old.

On the night of Jan 22, a private identified only as Winai either ”made a date” with, or ”lured” a 16-year-old Muslim girl to a secluded corner of the district hospital, situated near the local army outpost.

This was where the ”rape” or ”sexual tryst” occurred, while another private identified as Yot filmed the act.

In the clip, there was no visible physical struggle between Pte Winai and the victim. However, the victim clearly tried to hide her face from the camera. Pte Winai meanwhile smiled and laughed at the camera, with the voice of Pte Yot urging him on.

Later Pte Yot sent the clip to his friends, who then passed it around. The clip finally turned up on the mobile phones and computers of friends of the victim. Upon learning of the clip and the incident, the victim’s parents informed local authorities.

Wadouramae Mamingji, chairman of the Islamic Association of Pattani, said that the locals are angry, that the issue is very sensitive to local culture and that it hurts both the victim and her family.

He suggested the two army privates be punished to the full extent of the law, that the army outpost be moved out of the area and that the victim be compensated.

Lt Gen Udomchai said relationships between soldiers and residents violate Fourth Army regulations and the two privates have been punished. However, he was also concerned that a third party could exploit the issue, which he said could fan mistrust between soldiers and residents.

The two soldiers have been transferred to the Ingkayutthaboriharn army camp in Pattani’s Nong Chik district.

The Fourth Army chief said the public should be open-minded about the issue and that he was told the girl agreed to meet the two army privates herself. But regardless of what Lt Gen Udomchai was told, the question is was it rape or consensual?

This column will not exploit the issue and deepen mistrust between soldiers and residents, in keeping with what the Fourth Army chief cautioned. Rather, it will expose the issue and expand the possibility of justice for a girl, who this column will insist is a victim of a crime regardless of whether she consented to the act.

Section 279 of the Criminal Code states that 15 years old is the age of consent. Be that as it may, Section 283 states that acts classified as ”obscenity for personal gratification” with a person under the age of 18 is a compoundable offence even with the consent of the person.

The punishment is not more than five years imprisonment and/or not more than a 10,000 baht fine. The legislation applies to all persons regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

The girl is 16 years old. Having sex with her is an act of ”obscenity for personal gratification”, whether she consented or not. Filming the sexual act constitutes as ”obscenity for personal gratification”, regardless of whether she consented, which her hiding her face from the camera shows she did not.

Therefore, rape or not, the punishment already dealt to the two privates for having violated Fourth Army regulations and the subsequent transfer should not be the end of justice.

A proper court martial on charges of violating two counts of Section 283 of the Criminal Code must be the next chapter in this tragic story _ that is if the victim and her parents are willing to pursue the case. After all, it’s the victim’s right to choose to pursue the case in the interests of justice, or let the matter rest to avoid being put in the public spotlight and emotional trauma.

An important issue in the big picture is what constitutes rape. The differing newspaper headlines and opinions of those who have seen the clip speak to a great need for debate in society.

On a related note, the fact that journalists view the clip to report the news is a moral dilemma in and of itself. The clip is pornography.

But turning a blind eye, a deaf ear and silencing oneself in the name of ”sensitivity” is tantamount to sweeping the crime under the carpet, thereby indirectly helping the culprits go unpunished and legitimising the heinous act. To see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil guarantees that evil will prevail.

Rape is a term that suffers from over-simplification. Traditionally, people think of rape as exclusively in the realm of evil perpetrator(s) hiding in a bush or dark alley, surprising and grabbing an unfortunate woman passing by, which then leads to a brutal physical struggle, with after-the-fact evidence including blood, bruises and a broken body and spirit. This is an ignorant and male-oriented view.

The commonly accepted definition of rape _ in the eyes of the civilised world _ is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person’s consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of informed consent.

Soldiers wear uniforms and carry guns, they are persons of authority. Two adult soldiers in a war-torn southern province are authority figures whose very presence alone constitutes a threat and coercion.

A 16-year-old girl was used as a sex object and filmed. The question of whether she gave her consent to a soldier with a uniform and a gun in a war zone is absurd.

According to the laws in some countries, this would be a case of statutory rape at the very least.

Tears, screams, punches, bites and scratches are not the only proof of rape. The key word is ”consent”. The perpetrator may be a stranger, friend, coworker, boyfriend, husband or family member. A victim may consent physically, but if the consent is given under duress, coerced through threats of physical harm, blackmail or any other form of intimidation, it is what it is _ rape.

When a person is being forced against his or her will, even if the person doesn’t struggle physically, it is what it is _ rape.

The person may have given physical consent, by yielding, but if there is not mental or emotional consent, it is what it is _ rape.

Rape is not an easy topic to discuss. It’s taboo and carries a social stigma. In Thailand, women’s rights activists struggle to make society understand the different forms of rape and how they affect women and society’s mentality. In many countries, including Thailand, date rape and coerced sex are still considered normal and practised widely by many. It is endemic.

To protect the rights of women, society must understand that while ”no means no”, a ”yes” can be the result of coercion.

In the end all such acts are what they are _ rape, a heinous act that must be condemned.

Contact Voranai Vanijaka via email at voranaiv@bangkokpost.co.th


Thousands of Muslim women abandoned following affairs, marriage with troops

The Nation: March 5, 2012



More than 1,000 Muslim women in the southern border provinces have been abandoned following affairs or marriage with Buddhist troops deployed to keep security in the region, a senior official said Monday.

Chaiyong Maneerungsakul, the chairman of committee on justice and human rights related to southern border problems, said the southern violence also caused social problems for local Muslim women.

He said when Buddhist troops were deployed to keep security in the deep South, they liked local Muslim women and had affairs with them and abandoned them. Some of the troops fell in love with the women and married them but when they returned home to other regions, their Muslim wives could not put up with the culture shock and had to return home to their southern border provinces.

As a result, troops deployed to the southern border provinces had caused a lot of social problems in the region, Chaiyong said. He said so far more than 1,000 Muslim women had been abandoned by troops or other government officials.

Chaiyong said the Fourth Army Area commander realised the problems and had commanders educate troops from other regions about the culture of local women so that they would not cause more problems.

Chaiyong said local spiritual leaders should also play a bigger role in educating local women to prevent more problems.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 357 other followers

%d bloggers like this: